War Office Medals Branch 1917-1961: A Sourcebook

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‘Wear Your Medal Ribbons – 1914-15 Star General Service and Victory…’ Front of Card
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The Card was produced either late in 1919 or after. It includes details of the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal – Back of Card

The Sourcebook 1917-1961

Clicking here takes you to the Sourcebook.

Great War Related Records in the Sourcebook

The Sourcebook is designed to add to our understanding of the issue of WW1 Campaign Medals, together with the organisation of Medals Branch and its records between 1917-1961. Understanding the organisations in the War Office responsible for the issue of WW1 Campaign Medals and their records is of particular importance considering the destruction of most British Army service records in the Arnside Fire of September 1940 (click here to see more about this event).

A related report on the issue of the organisation of the Army Record Offices in 1921 although focused only in part on the issue of Medals answers many questions about the problems of Record Offices. Their problems in the ‘aftermath’ of the War are of great importance in understanding the errors which appeared in many of the records which used information from this source (e.g. Medal Rolls, Soldiers Died In The Great War, C.W.G.C. WW1 records). It also helps explain the need for organisations such as Medals Branch or the Imperial War Graves Commission in the 1920s to allocate significant resources to try to verify/remove errors from the information they received from the Record Offices.

The separate nature of the verification/issue of most Gallantry Medals and Honours (via War Office division M.S. 3) is also covered in the Sourcebook, with the medal and honours related responsibilities of War Office divisions other than Medals Branch listed.

World War Two and Later Records in the Sourcebook

The Army Medal Office (A.M.O.) holdings by 1961 of Second World War related medals, including the C.S. 20 Card Index of claims for Campaign medals are included in the Sourcebook. There is also some information about the holdings of records for the other Campaign, General Service, Good Conduct Medals and miscellaneous medals issued from the Boer War onwards and with the Army Medal Office in 1961. A report on the organisation of the Army Medals Office in 1957 provides helpful information on the organisation of the A.M.O. The Report helps explain some post WW2 notes on WW1 Medal Index Cards, the holdings of WW2 Medal Cards and the range of medals issued by Medals Branch between 1917-1961.

Examples of World War One and World War Two Medal Issue Boxes

A slideshow of the front and back of a Great War Medal issue box and a WW2 Medal issue box follows at the bottom of the page.

A World War Two Campaign Medals Issue Box

Although the address details are rather faded in the case of the WW2 medal box (Botterill? or Botterall from Oadby, near Leicester and without a service number) the following instruction is very clearly printed on the back of the box:

‘In the event of non-delivery return to the address below, to which any enquiry regarding the contents of this packet should also be directed.

O. i/c., Infantry Records, Tulketh Hall, Preston Lancs.’

This shows that the box was sent out before the Army Medal Office at Droitwich assumed responsibility for the issue of WW2 Campaign Medals sometime before 1957.

A World War One Campaign Medals Issue Box

In the back of the box image from the WW1 British War Medal and Victory Medal box, the embossed word ‘FIELD’ is clearly visible at the bottom right after the pasted strip. The image is followed by another example of a BWM/VM box without the pasted strip on the back, here the words are clearly visible:

‘ROBINSON & SONS LTD,

BOX MAKERS,

CHESTERFIELD’

The company still exists in 2018 and a brief history, not including mention of its role in making these boxes, can be found here.

Although the significance of the printed numbers on WW1 Medal Boxes has often been explained, with the top right number indicating the page of the Medal Roll and the number on the left the Regimental number engraved on the medals issued, little comment has been made about the handwritten numbers found on the front of the boxes. These numbers are likely to have been written on the boxes at the Army Record Offices and may possibly be connected to the issue voucher numbers the Record Office clerks would have put in the Record Office copies of the rolls/medal account books at the time of despatch (click here to see what happened to the Record Office copies of the Medal Rolls in the 1920s and 1930s).

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